Posted on 02/09/2006 9:36 PM EST
Dissension: A Necessary Component if we are to Cultivate Political and Social Change
It is a consequence of being human; that uneasy, uncomfortable feeling that we get when we hear what we really don’t want to hear or in many cases read other’s comments that seem completely opposite of our position or beliefs.
This thought came to mind as I read reader’s comments and hear from others about what seems to some to be divisive rhetoric. For the sake of argument, let’s all agree that for the purpose of this column, the word rhetoric is defined as language and expression of ideas.
That this difference of opinion has manifested itself in the pages of this newspaper or anywhere else for that matter should come as no surprise.
Why should we expect that just because most of us are Hispanic that we are incapable of thinking independently?
I for one don’t think that even for one second.
A little over 30 years ago, during the era of La Raza Unida and the Chicano (the preferred label of the day back then) movement, the popular notion was that people would vote for a political candidate simply because they shared a common ethnicity with him/her. Although, women were just beginning to wake up to the fact that they could do just as well as men in the political arena, so it was mostly “hims” back then.
In fact this notion was not unique to Hispanics. It was a voting strategy employed by other ethnic groups; particularly blacks in the south and in places such as Washington, DC. And most of the time, this “vote for me because I’m a certain color and so are you” strategy paid off.
One of the main reasons that a disgraced mayor like Marion Barry, who was mayor of Washington, DC until the early 90’s could come back after being convicted of drug use and spending time in prison, and win a council seat from Ward 8 in SE Washington, was because he was black and so was the majority of that particular ward. Barry tapped into that “vote for me because I am one of you” mentality and won. But that doesn’t mean that the residents of Ward 8 did.
Even in this city, as some of you may recall, it wasn’t until redistricting was mandated by the justice system in the mid 80’s that the first elected Hispanic city council member emerged from District 1. It’s a strong possibility that that victory could be traced to the district’s high majority Hispanic population and ethnic identification with then candidate, Maggie Trejo. The simple fact is that things are not quite like that anymore.
Although District 1 and 2 are still majority Hispanic districts, Hispanics make up substantial percentages in other areas of the city. District 4 enjoys a 12% Hispanic population followed by District 3; 18.3%, District 5; 11.7%, and District 6; 18.1%. As clearly shown by these percentages; not all Hispanics live in District 1or 2; we are not only culturally, but also geographically diverse.
It makes sense that we will also be diverse when it comes to political and social issues.
As societies evolve, the political and geographical landscapes change dramatically. And as is usually the case, changes tend to give birth to new schools of thought and new ideas. While some people continue to believe as some did 30 plus years ago, today others believe otherwise.
Differences of opinion are just that. They cannot be defined in terms of right or wrong; or better or best. It is just part of the natural progression of things and another step in the political maturing process.
Whether you believe it or not, dissension and differences of opinion are two of the guiding principles that have always played an important role in achieving political and social success. It may not seem so at times, especially when people tend to lose sight of the issues and decide to attack the messenger and not the message.
We need to remember that historical events that have had major impact in our lives have almost always started because someone or a group of people disagreed about the actions taken by others that would affect their lives in one way or another.
And if we all thought alike, acted alike, this would make for a very boring world.
Dissension among groups with a common ancestry or ethnicity is not bad.
Rather dissension is what should drive us towards a deeper conviction of our beliefs; that is if we really believe what we are saying. And it should also give us insight into other people’s views and opinions. And ultimately it should lead us to a mutual meeting ground; that all important place where we can have thoughtful discussions that will hopefully lead to mutual respect and start both parties down the road to common understanding.
But the road to that point can be filled with roadblocks and hazards. It is a slippery slope that we would do well to be aware of.
Most importantly we must be careful to talk about the issues and not the person advocating for the issue. Otherwise we will lose our focus and in the process lose the battle.
Let the dialogue continue, it will only help us grow and increase our tolerance level.
If we allow that to happen, the odds of winning the political and social struggles faced by people who happen to share a common ethnic bond, will greatly increase.